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2023 and imperative of political restructuring

“I repeat it, if you make my son a presidential candidate under this Constitution, I will oppose him. Do we have a country? There is no country and when there is no country why are you talking about the presidency?

“I am anxious that this country will not break up, especially with all the self-determination agitations all over the places. We need to settle down and discuss how to live together and the terms of our unity”.

-Pa Ayo Adebanjo, new leader of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere.

The handwriting is on the wall, for the imminent break-up of the country called Nigeria, as it was during the Biblical time of the wild party-loving King Belshazzar. But some greed-driven and power-poaching political leaders, based on what William Shakespeare’s Macbeth called “vaulting ambition that falls on the other side” insist that the country is unbreakable!

I wish I could laugh louder in response but what do we make of the ever-escalating wave of the agitation for a Biafra Republic by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)? And what about the discordant tunes triggered by some leading Yoruba socio-cultural groups over the creation of Oduduwa Republic? While the Prof. Banji Akintoye-led umbrella body insists that not even the police could stop the on-going agitation for Oduduwa Republic both at home and in the diaspora, the Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, dismissed speculations that the South West would break from Nigeria and form a Yoruba nation. He contended that having a Yoruba nation at present is unrealistic. He added that it is not the solution to the myriads of challenges facing the nation.

Up north, the coming on stream of the Middle Belt Unity Forum (MBUF) as well as the announcement of the birth of North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) means that the zone is “finally breaking away from the stranglehold of the core north”.

Truth be told, there have been feelings of mass disenchantment, aggravated by the killing spree in Benue State by e majority of people in the geo-political zone. They are tired that the North Central has been tied to the apron strings of the north to the detriment of its development. Simply put they no longer want to be sued as “willing tools” to satiate the core North’s unrelenting ambition to hold on to the levers of political power at the centre for eons!

Not long ago, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to heed the clarion call and counsel of two elder statesmen both who were his predecessors in office, Dr. Yakubu Gowon and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to restructure the country.

They urged Buhari and those at the helm of affairs to look beyond “temporary gains of power and heed the advice to set this country on the path of negotiation, inclusiveness, and a federal constitutional order,” adding: “A stitch in time saves nine, says ancient wisdom.”

Perhaps, the Northern elders have borrowed a fresh leaf from such agitations by caving in to agree to the political restructuring of the country. Following a recent two-day Northern Summit, Arewa elders have thrown their weight behind calls for the restructuring of the country, saying that is the only way Nigeria could realise its potentials for economic and political development.

In a communiqué issued after the Summit, the Arewa leaders said, “The North believes that restructuring the country is now a vital necessity for survival as one united entity.”

In supporting the restructuring agenda for the nation, it was agreed that northern elite and political leadership should improve “their levels of sensitivity to inclusiveness and management of the North’s pluralism.

“The north will be stronger if it addresses its internal weaknesses, particularly around ethno-religious matters, as it relates to its challenges with the rest of Nigeria.”

It also said: “Perception and practice of creating minorities and majorities among northerners should have no place in the north, nor is discrimination on the basis of place, faith or ethnic group of any Northerner.”

But the group gave an interesting condition. It stated, unequivocally that: “The North will not be stampeded or blackmailed into taking major decisions around rotating the Presidency. The North draws the attention of the country to the inherent fragility of the Nigerian State.”

The communiqué was signed by Air Marshal Al-amin Daggash (rtd); Ambassador Ibrahim Mai-Sule; Dr. Usman Bugaje; Alhaji Awual Tukur; Alhaji Iliyasu Yushau; Alhaji Aliyu Yaro, amongst several others and Prof. D. D. D. Sheni, who was Chairman of Communiqué Drafting Committee of the Summit.

The germane reasons fuelling the agitation for the break-up of Nigeria are of fundamental significance, which must be frontally and squarely addressed. Incidentally, they dovetail towards what many patriots, including Pa Adebanjo refer to as “the inequalities we are complaining about are because of this fraudulent Constitution”.

For instance, there were more local governments in the South than in the North before the constitution came into place. Yet, many people are just ignorant of this. How do we explain the painful fact that the population of Lagos and Kano used to be the same, but by the time the military came they created Jigawa from Kano and created more local governments? Jigawa and Kano now have up to about 77 local governments while Lagos remains at 20. How do we explain the policy of sharing revenue, much of which comes from the south, based on the number of local governments after such fraud? Yet, there are more critical issues to trouble the unity of Nigeria.

What about the sleazy amnesty offered to the so-called “repentant terrorists” many of who have maimed, raped and killed thousands of innocent citizens, all from the public till? How do we justify the openly nepotistic political appointments, including that for the juicy top security officers and NNPC helmsmen offered on a platter of gold, skewed in favour of Northerners?

All these actions ignite pent-up anger from the southerners who feel openly robbed of their God-given resources. It is time therefore, for us as a people to reverse the drift of sheer sentiments over substance, compassion over competence and religion over refined reasoning. If we do not make such desirable institutional and psychological paradigm shift, there may be no credible and peaceful elections, come 2023.

My vote therefore, is for the permanent and holistic restructuring of this nation-state to devolve both political and economic powers from the bloated centre to the federating units (geo-political zones). It brings governance closer to the people. That was the political configuration during the First Republic when the three Regions had much control over their resources and paid an agreed percentage of their income to the weaker centre.

Back then the Mike Opara-led Eastern Region with its palm oil and rubber was adjudged as having the most robust economy amongst the Commonwealth nations. And it is common knowledge that with the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo at the helm of affairs, the Western Region achieved monumental strides with free education, durable infrastructural development and the first television station in Africa.

It is indeed worrisome that decades later our new crop of politicians has not seen the wisdom in doing away with the military-imposed unitary system of government. It is laughable that our state governors still go cap-in-hand every month-end to collect the crumbs called state allocation. In which other democracy does this economic anomaly take place?

A restructured Nigeria now would calm the frayed nerves of the determined agitators beating the war drums, re-invent the wheel of healthy competitive spirit for self-development at the geo-political zones and give us a more peaceful Nigeria. The time to act is now!

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